Interview: Tom and Lee-Ann Curren
Big Sky Wire
Big Sky Wire is a regular Coastalwatch column produced by Michele Lockwood & Andrew Kidman. This week, Andrew Kidman is visited by the great Tom Curren and his daughter Lee-Ann.
Working on a project like Spirit of Akasha is an incredible experience for so many of reasons. Getting to spend a lot of time with Tom Curren and his daughter, Lee-Anne is one of them. Getting to surf and play music with them, tops it all off. Tom and Lee-Anne will both be contributing to the Spirit of Akasha soundtrack and while they are in town, this Friday, we’ve organized a gig at the Great Northern in Byron. It should be a fun night, a little sneak preview of what is to come for the film with The Windy Hills and Central Coast’s Jack River. It is all coming togther!
AK: What sort of show do you think you will do on Friday?
TC: Friday we’ll probably play a little bit of country a little bit of rock n’ roll, probably a little bit of electric, a little bit of ukulele and then hopefully we’ll have enough different sounds going on, so yeah, looking forward to it.
What bands have you been enjoying lately, what are some of the tracks you’ve been playing for me?
I’ve been listening to a lot of live music lately, going thru a lot of music I’ve liked in the past. Earth, Wind and Fire, Kimbra, I dunno… Jefferson Starship. You know good music…
What do you like about it?
It’s good music.
Yeah but when you play it for me, you get pretty fired up, I’ve noticed. You play every instrument when it’s on…
Yes. I think it’s just, uh, it’s a good question because I think it takes me a while to appreciate music so by the time I start to understand it, it’s already been played too much on the radio so I kinda wait a while and then I like it.
Is that why you like the live stuff, because it is genuine, not a studio recording?
I think I like listening to concerts because the music is more spontaneous.
When you are playing live yourself is that what you enjoy about it, that it is spontaneous? From what I know about your music is that it is all about feeding off other players, jamming and having fun. You’ve been recording lately but in the past you just play with whoever’s around.
When I did this record it’s been mostly playing live in the studio and just a few overdubs. And I had a chance to gel with a group even though it’s not really my band it is the studio band, we would do a few takes and usually by the third or fourth take we would have it. I don’t really enjoy studio time that much, it’s kinda boring… a lot of listening and perfecting. The technology has made it possible to go over something, over and over again. And after a while the energy is not the same. It’s always been the case with me to feel like the song is working and if you work on it too much it gets bit boring. And a really good band it always good to see live.
The band I’ve been playing with now, we’ve been playing on and off together since 1996. It’s Chris Swann on bass and William Kimble plays rhythm guitar, they’ve really developed very well on their own, with song writing and playing and they are very good friends, which is the main thing.
Your daughter Lee-Anne will be doing a few songs with you on the night...
Yes, Lee-Anne's in town doing some surfing events. She’s developing her sound too, she’s got an album coming out and she’s just released an EP, it is unique, it’s different. To me what she is doing is her own style.
What’s it like to play with her? You guys communicate in French, but it looks like you have a good father daughter rapport…
Yeah, it’s mind blowing for me because she loves music and she’s keen and very focussed on the things she does. And it is really nice to support what she is doing, and in a musical sense it is nice to play back up rhythm guitar or bass for her.
Did you teach her originally?
No, not really. I showed her a few things about working in a studio and the few little things I learned at school that stuck with me that are very valuable. And that was all I could do. I try to help without being over bearing.
Lee-Anne, how is it playing with your Dad?
LC: I really like playing with my dad because he plays in a different tuning and so it is always interesting and new. Also I like his ideas, they are creative and inspiring. And I look forward to doing that Friday night.
How would you describe the music you play?
Well I play with a really good friend. We both sing and play guitar, our inspirations are Pixies and Modest Mouse. We try to find the melodies with singing that are kind of different. But it’s just like rock music.
What do you enjoy about music? Something must draw you to it…
I enjoy playing with someone else, seeing what ideas they come up with. When you share ideas with other people your universe expands and you come up with new ideas.
Tom, Why did you choose “Sure Feels Good” as your cover song for the “Spirit of Akasha” project?
TC: That song to me is really part of my roots, not just for the sequence in the original movie but for the song, the style is boogie blues and southern rock and that is what I like. When we did that song, it was in a hurry and I would’ve liked to add some other things, like harmonica but it was real fun to do. It was a real blast to play that song.
How did that original film, “Morning of the Earth” affect you?
That film came out when a lot of films were coming out at the same time. I was probably between 5 and 8 years old. I remember they would show all these old movies around town were I grew up, it was a real creative phase happening around that time, you know George Greenough’s movie and “Sea of Joy and I don’t actually remember that movie until seeing it a lot actually quite a lot later.
What I discovered about Michael Peterson’s surfing is that I tried to emulate guys like Rabbit and PT, I tried to emulate their approach and when I saw actual footage of MP surfing I saw that these guys were trying to emulate MP’s surfing and that MP was trying to emulate I think, Nat Young.
Footage wasn’t readily available like it is today, you could only see it when it came to theatres. Seeing that early footage of MP, I was very surprised that those other Queenslanders were similar in their approach and so there was this whole different kind of influence happening. The whole kind of point surfing juggernaut in Australia really affected me in ways that I wasn’t even aware of yet.
It’s cool that that point surfing affected your surfing and that your surfing affected a whole lot of other people post that. It came back to those roots, it’s a pretty functional way to surf a point.
Yeah, the other thing is the boards were changing so fast that no one knew what was around the corner in terms of board design, the design phase was at a such an intense period.
With the actual film, I heard about it a lot until I actually got to see it. I didn’t get to see it until a little later. Seeing MP surf was amazing and seeing Rabbit and PT too. And PT used to coach me in the NSSA and he used to talk a lot about the old days in Coolangatta and about guys like Tommy and Michael Peterson and I just ate it up and I wanted to hear everything about it. I was fascinated with Australia and the Gold Coast, which is like California- Santa Barbara, point breaks with warm water and I was an eager student of it all.
It must be nice to come back here now and see this thing come full circle to come and play music and surf for the celebration of that movie, to be honouring that movie….
It’s one of those things that you can’t even imagine. It is hard to appreciate it because it feels like it is still so far-fetched for me.
To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog here.
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